Reminder: Donations this Giving Tuesday May Help Reduce Tax Bills

This Giving Tuesday, remember that donations to eligible organizations, cash or non-cash, are tax deductible and may reduce your tax liability come spring filing season.

Are you eligible to claim charitable donations on your taxes? Only taxpayers who itemize using Form 1040, Schedule A can claim deductions for charitable contributions. You will most likely be a Schedule A filer if you pay for items such as mortgage interest, property taxes, state & local taxes, and charitable contributions that in total, exceed the current year standard deduction. If your itemized deductions exceed this standard deduction for the tax year, you will likely receive a benefit from charitable contributions.

For example, in 2016 the standard deduction for married filing joint taxpayers is $12,600. If the total of your mortgage interest, property taxes, and charitable contributions is in excess of the standard deduction ($12,600), you are an itemized taxpayer.

Is the organization your are contributing to an eligible entity? You can check for eligible entities on the IRS website using their “Select Check” tool. Note that newer organizations may not be listed on the IRS website yet and churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and government agencies are eligible to receive deductible donations even if they are not listed in the IRS database.

Lastly, be sure to document your contributions with bank statements or canceled checks. If you contribution is greater than $250, ask the receiving organization for a written statement or letter acknowledging your contribution.

Year-End Tax Moves – Speculating on President-Elect Trump’s Tax Cuts

President-Elect Trump declared in several interviews that lowering taxes is one of his top priorities. Those that are betting on him delivering this promise and passing reformation through a Republican controlled congress should consider deferring income to 2017 in an effort to take advantage of the possibility of lower tax rates.

The Trump tax plan, features only three brackets, down from the current seven, and reduces the maximum tax rate of 39.6% to 33%. The standard strategy for year-end planning has always been to defer income, wherever possible, into the coming year. Here are some ways to achieve this goal, and speculate on the possibility for change:

  1. An employee who believes a bonus may be coming his way may be able to request that his employer delay payment of any bonus until early in the following year. For example, if a bonus would normally be paid on Dec. 15, 2016, an employee may ask the employer before Dec. 15 to defer any bonus coming his way until Jan. 2, 2017. If the employee is successful in deferring the bonus, they will succeed in having it taxed in 2017 as opposed to 2016. But note that if an employee waits until a bonus is due and payable to request a deferral, the tax on the bonus will not be deferred.
  2. Income that a cash basis taxpayer earns by rendering services isn’t taxed until the client, patient, or customer pays. If the taxpayer holds off billing until next year, or bills late enough in the year that no payment can be received in 2016, income will not become taxable until next year.
  3. Defer a traditional IRA-to-Roth IRA conversion until 2017. Conversions are generally subject to tax as if it were distributed from the traditional IRA or qualified plan and not re-contributed to another IRA. A taxpayer who plans to make such a conversion should defer doing so if he believes the conversion will face a lower tax next year.
  4. Defer Property sales. The President-elect’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) also would repeal the 3.8% surtax on net investment income. It may also be in best interest to set up an installment sale and recognize income over multiple tax periods.
  5. Trump’s tax plan also aims to increase the standard deduction ($30,000 for joint filers, up from the $12,600 allowed in 2016). Since most taxpayers may not receive the benefit for itemizing property taxes, mortgage interest, and charitable contributions under the proposed increased deduction, it may be wise to accelerate these expenses before year-end 2016. For example, property taxes may be due in January 2017 for the 2016 period, you can opt to pay early, prior to December 31, 2016, and accelerate this deduction.

While President-Elect Trump’s proposal has been listed as one of his top priorities, there is no telling what portions of this plan will ever make it into law. The five planning techniques above are just examples of scenarios that could reduce your overall tax burden in the event Mr. Trump follows through with his proposal.

 

When to File? Important Changes to Due Dates and more

As the 2016 tax year winds down, there is no better time than now to get your finances in order. Let’s face it, the last thing you want to think about during the holiday season is taxes. I compiled a list of the deadlines to follow after year-end. Please note that legislation during the year changed the due dates for many common forms. Below is a summary:

Individual Due Dates:

  • Individual Form 1040 – April 15th (no change)
  • FinCEN Form 114 (FBAR) – April 15th (previously due June 30th)

Business Due Dates:

  • Partnership Form 1065 – March 15th (previously due April 15th)
  • S-Corporation Form 1120S – March 15th (no change)
  • C-Corporation Form 1120 (calendar year) –  April 15th (previously March 15th)
  • Forms W-2 – January 31 (previously February 28 & March 31 if electronically filed)
  • Forms 1099-MISC – January 31* (previously February 28 & March 31 if electronically filed)

*This new due date is only for Forms 1099-MISC using Box 7 to report non-employee compensation.

For a complete list of all updated due dates, including Trust and Estate Forms 1041, and Form 990 for Exempt Organizations, the AICPA has compiled the changes into a PDF table.